Coming Off Kansas Loss, Iona’s Armand Drops 30 on George Mason

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Ever since losing by 20 points to Andrew Wiggins and Kansas on Tuesday, Sean Armand wanted to get back on the basketball court.

The 6-foot-5 Iona guard was unhappy with his — and the team’s performance — in Lawrence and wanted to get back on the winning track.

Armand did that by dropping 30 points — 2 shy of his career-high — as Iona smacked George Mason, 89-73, Saturday afternoon at the Hynes Center in a game that was not as close as that score indicates.

“It motivated me a bunch,” the Brooklyn native said of Tuesday’s 86-66 loss at No. 2 Kansas.

“Kansas fans got a lot to say and everybody doubts our team but we got a lot to prove. We got a chip on our shoulder day in and day out in practice, in warm-ups and the game and we come out and fight every day.”

Against a George Mason team (4-1) that seemed overmatched from the opening tip, Armand shot 10-of-16 from the field and was 4-for-10 from beyond the arc. His fourth 3-pointer with 8:21 remaining in the contest was the 264th of his career, surpassing Steve Burtt’s seven-season old mark of 263 set in 2006. He added three rebounds and three assists and was 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.

“He’s a big-time player,” George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said of Armand. “He’s scored over 1,000 points in his career so he was very prominent in our scouting report.”

Armand raised some eyebrows this past week when he called out Wiggins, the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, on Twitter.

“Of course this kid is the headline on espn. Overrated,” he wrote on Twitter.

Armand and Iona actually kept it close against Kansas for a half, trailing just 41-36 at the break, before they were outscored 45-30 in the second half.

And for the record, Armand outscored Wiggins, 14-13, in that game.

But against George Mason, the game was never in doubt.

Iona blitzed Mason early and led 32-5 and 44-16 in the first half, effectively ending the game within the first few minutes.

“They’re a good team and they’ve got a couple of really good players in [David] Laury and Armand,” Hewitt said. “They stepped up and played well. That’s what’s supposed to happen in those games. And coming off a loss you need your best players to step up and play big and they did.”

The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Laury played point forward at times and finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, while emerging point guard A.J. English had his second straight big game with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

“A lot of people don’t know A.J. just yet, but he’s going to be a great player,” Armand said.

Had Iona lost, they would’ve dropped to 1-3 on the season.

Instead, they are 2-2 heading into a tough game at Florida Gulf Coast, where Joe Dooley has taken over the Dunk City Offense. Florida Gulf Coast will return to play at Iona in the 2014-15 season.

For now, the Gaels are looking to make a run at their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Manhattan was picked to win the MAAC, and the two league games between the New York rivals beginning Jan. 31 should be epic.

Asked if this was the best Iona team of his four-year career, Armand said: “Personally, I think the team that won the at-large bid [in 2012] was the best team I had so far and this season  just started so I can’t judge this team yet.

“But we’re real athletic, we got some more size, got some more ball-handlers, guys that can penetrate and kick. Guys that do multiple things. Different from what we had in the past.”

With its uptempo offense — and Armand’s confidence and swagger — Iona figures to to be a problem come March

 

Photo: Iona Athletics

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